November 30, 2001

Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) Urges At-Risk Groups to Get Vaccinated For Flu

San Diego's Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) expects no shortage of flu vaccines this season. Delays in the delivery of the vaccine, however, could mean that some people would get their flu shot later than others.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that sufficient vaccine is being produced, with large supplies expected in December. Locally, health officials are confident that there will be enough vaccine in San Diego County to cover the people who are at highest risk of developing complications from the flu, noting that some health care providers are already offering the vaccine.

Area residents should get vaccinated for the flu if they fit into one of these groups at highest risk for complications:

People who are age 65 or older;

People (including children) with lung, heart, or kidney disease, diabetes, immunosuppression, or other chronic illness;

Health care providers and others who care for ill persons:

Women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy;

Residents of nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities;

Household contacts of high-risk individuals.

Vaccine clinics targeting those at highest risk for complications are scheduled throughout the County in November and December. Otherwise healthy people age 50-65 should plan to obtain a flu shot, too, beginning in December and May. The flu vaccines take around two weeks to become effective.

The Coalition recommends that individuals ask their health care provider for the flu shot. Most insurance covers the cost of flu vaccination, and many private doctors and clinics provide this service.

Those without access to vaccines otherwise can get the flu vaccine at one of up to 300 sites which will be available throughout San Diego County. For site information, call toll-free at 1-877-FLU-0202 or check the web at www.sdchip.org, where vaccine sites are listed by zip code.

In addition to delayed vaccine deliveries, this year's effort to fight the flu has been complicated by public concerns over anthrax. Flu vaccinations do not protect against anthrax or other infections. "No vaccine is 100% effective, so some of those who get vaccinated for flu will still come down with flu symptoms, or experience colds and other respiratory illnesses. Many winter illnesses, such as the common upper respiratory infections, start with flu-like symptoms, while the flu shot is only effective against influenza," said Dr. Richard Brown, Co-Chair of Kaiser Permanente's Influenza Vaccination Committee.

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